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A safe haven: the importance of social comfort in facilitating physical activity among overweight young people

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posted on 2013-03-08, 09:29 authored by Susie Brown
This paper examines the significance of social context as a factor influencing young people’s engagement with programmes to encourage physical activity. There is a growing concern amongst researchers, medical practitioners and policy makers about the health and fitness of overweight young people, with the UK parliament recommending that initiatives to tackle obesity should target schoolchildren . This paper draws on findings from a wider evaluation of the impact of TOP Activity resources and equipment used within the MEND programme. MEND (Mend, Exercise, Nutrition and Do It!) is a targeted intervention programme for overweight 7-13 year olds which supports young people and their families in making life changes that will impact on their health and well-being. The evaluation was conducted in 2009 and involved the development of eight case studies focussed on MEND programmes delivered in both school and non-school sites. Interviews were conducted with programme managers and exercise trainers (n=14), and at each of the three face-to-face visits there were two to three small focus groups with the young people and their parents. The research confirmed the success of the MEND programme and showed that the TOP Activity resources had been an enjoyable addition to the programme for the young people. Parents and exercise trainers perceived that participation in MEND yielded multiple benefits, including increasing the children’s self-confidence, skill levels and fitness, and that this improved the young people’s ability to join in with other sporting activities during PE lessons and/or extra curricular activities. A key finding of the research was the importance of ‘social comfort’ in encouraging the young people’s participation Providing a safe social space for participation, including a peer group of similarly overweight young people, was key to encouraging participants to become involved. The paper considers the implications of this for the future development of physical activity programmes for young people.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


BROWN, S., 2011. A safe haven: the importance of social comfort in facilitating physical activity among overweight young people. IN: Long, J., Fitzgerald, H. and Millward, P. (eds.) Delivering Equality in Sport and Leisure. LSA Publication No. 115. Eastbourne: LSA Publications, pp. 139 - 153.


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This book chapter was published in the book Delivering Equality in Sport and Leisure [© Leisure Studies Association]. The publisher's website is at: http://www.leisure-studies-association.info




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